Written by Anthony Moujaes
An historic church in the northern reaches of the New York City metro area is getting some much-needed attention, with the help of a Sacred Site grant. Repairing flood damage and adding a second stained-glass window to the 189 year-old structure are just part of the improvements planned for Blooming Grove UCC in the coming years.
The Orange County church, pastored by the Rev. Lise Worthington, was one of 23 historic religious sites in the state to receive Sacred Sites grants from the New York Landmarks Conservancy. The total amount awarded to all the sites was a combined $294,500. The church received a $3,500 grant to help build a drain around the building's foundation. "It's a positive start, and it means that people are listening," Worthington said.
The church's only stained-glass window, nearly 100 years old (1919), is on the eastern side of the building. Known as the "Patriotism" window, it honors World War I veterans. The church will kick off an ambitious fundraising campaign on Veterans Day, hoping to raise $150,000 to add a second stained-glass window – this one recognizing veterans since World War II – and make improvements to water-damaged areas.
The church, completed in 1823, was the first house of worship in the nation to build a stained-glass window in recognition of World War I veterans. That window, about 12 feet high and 3 ½ feet wide, was dedicated in 1919 in a ceremony attended by the state's governor.
The fundraising campaign relies on a sense of community, mission work, and public support, Worthington said, and will help address much-needed repairs to the gable-roofed church.
"We've had a water problem for forever and a day," Worthington said, describing how water was seeping up through the basement. The dampness created a buildup of mold near the church's ceiling.
Things got worse when Hurricane Irene hit the Eastern seaboard in 2011, leaving 3 to 4 feet of standing water in the church, Worthington said.
Blooming Grove has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1996. The building's other historic tidbit: Enos Ayres, the first graduate of the Princeton Theological Seminary, is buried in the church basement.
Visit Blooming Grove UCC's website for more information about the church.